Come fly with me: Dutch king was guest pilot for 21 years

The Dutch government said last month that he had flown Fokker 70 aircraft for both the government and KLM Cityhopper service, and that the plane was being replaced this year with a 737.

King Willem-Alexander operated KLM's fleet of smaller Fokker 70 planes, but he'll have to learn to fly Boeing 737s now that the former aircrafts are being discontinued.

Although he is still focussed on his royal duties he does admit that being able to leave his royal duties behind to concentrate on flying was "relaxing" and went on to say that what he described as his casual flights was just a hobby! The royal told De Telegraaf that an airplane's cockpit serves as an escape from the throne: "You have an aircraft, passengers and crew". He would have preferred long-haul destinations but the need to be available for royal duties in an emergency ruled out spending nights away, he told De Telegraaf.

'You can't take your problems from the ground into the skies. You can for a brief moment disconnect and concentrate on something else.

While Willem-Alexanders love of flying was not secret, his interview revealed far more detail about the extent of his regular piloting for KLM.

He is one of a handful of royals who are also known to be pilots.

Willem-Alexander volunteered to fly for the African Medical Research and Education Foundation and the Kenya Wildlife Service in the 1990s.

He was seldom recognized in uniform, particularly after the September 11 terrorist attacks, when safety protocols were introduced to limit access to cockpits, he said.

The king earned his private pilot's license in 1985 and his commercial pilot's license two years later.

The twice monthly flights for KLM allow him to keep his flying hours up to the 150 hour-a-year requirement.

"People regularly came to have a look and thought it was nice or surprising that I was sitting there", he said. Some passengers did, he said, recognize his voice.

King Willem-Alexander (R) with Queen Maxima of the Netherlands.

  • Leroy Wright